Scuba diving and the permit systemIn June 2004 the Government announced that it was introducing a permit system to regulate scuba diving in Marine Protected Areas. The regulations were imposed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) despite opposition from the sport diving community. The input from concerned recreational divers and industry was largely ignored. The Government has now indicated that it will proceed with implementation of the fee system from 2006, with the fee income accruing to the Marine Living Resources Fund.
The recreational diving community opposes the regulations on the following grounds:
- The regulations are imposed under the Marine Living Resources Act, an Act that was intended to control the fishing industry;
- The Regulations were imposed without proper consultation;
- The Government has imposed the regulations as a means of acquiring additional revenue, rather than due to any real need to regulate diving activities;
- The Regulations were imposed without an understanding of the impact that they will have on the sport and the industry.
Of particular concern to the diving community is that there is no control over the allocation of funding from the Marine Living Resources Fund, and no limit on future fee increases. The Government has effectively passed regulations forcing the sport diving community to hand Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) a blank cheque.
Previous dealings with MCM have shown that they cannot be trusted. Officials have been evasive, gone back on undertakings, and generally acted in an unacceptable manner. The Department has no particular skills relating to sport diving, an activity recognised as a sport by the Department of Sports and Recreation. The sport diving community cannot allow the future of our sport to be controlled by these people. Our sport has developed and managed itself successfully for more than 50 years; we didn’t need MCM until now, and we don’t think we need them in future.
Members of the sport diving community are embarking on initiatives to oppose the Regulations. These initiatives include publicity campaigns, lobbying efforts, and legal action. To do this effectively we need your support.
How can you support the sport diving community?
- Get involved. Learn about the facts of the situation, and help educate your fellow divers about the risks we now face;
- Take part in discussions. If you have Internet access, join the Yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rsa_scuba_mpa_discuss/);
- Volunteer your time to assist in research and investigation.
You can make a difference. Together the sport diving community can take control of its own destiny.